Two meters long, made of spruce, pointed at one end. In general, an ordinary pointed stick, only its widest and most massive part is in the front third - a sure sign that the weapon is throwable. One detail: it is 400 thousand years old - which means that it is older than our species
The fact that he belongs to the purely throwing is very important. The fact is that the same chimpanzees use something like a spear in modern experiments: a sharp stick helps them kill small animals in holes. Throwing a stick is quite different. According to one of the anthropological theories, this is what separates humans from apes.
Several decades ago, British anthropologist James Woodburn spent some time with Hadza hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. And I drew attention to the fact that in this society there is almost no differentiation. In fact, it is absolutely egalitarian. Hadza families form small groups that roam together once every couple of weeks. Their composition is unstable; at the request of their members, they can unite or disintegrate. Their territories do not have clear boundaries; each hadza can live, hunt and gather food wherever he wishes, and only in the dry season do they unite in large groups of 100-200 people. There is no permanent social structure like community or tribe here. There are no recognized authorities either: one of them may have the best organizational skills, and during such a difficult event as hunting for hippos, he will be promoted to the front - and he will temporarily lead the group. The moment the hippopotamus is killed, its leadership ends.
Any attempt by an individual Hadza to subjugate the will of others is met with resistance from literally everyone. Even outstanding hunters do not risk going against such seemingly temporary, small and unstable collectives: after all, a great warrior can be killed in a dream …
Some time later, Christopher Boehm from the University of Southern California (USA) drew attention to the fact that this social structure is an inverted picture of the social world of chimpanzees. They live in a strictly hierarchical group, subordinate to the alpha male. It is he who controls the degree of access to food and individuals of the opposite sex - the two main resources necessary for survival in Africa. In his 2000 book Hierarchy in the Forest, Boehm suggested that egalitarianism emerged in human societies early on as a result of the elimination of hierarchy based on individual strength. As he postulates, the death of the power hierarchy became possible only because of the advent of throwing weapons. Even a non-throwing spear, the scientist claims, is more important in the hands of the strong than in the hands of the weak. We'll come back to this point.
When exactly this happened is unclear. The spear, which is 400 thousand years old, is an exception, since the tree is very poorly preserved. The stone arrowheads are more preserved, but they clearly appeared later than the throwing spear (the earliest specimen is 300 thousand years old). However, Christopher Boehm insists, this is what influenced the evolution of the genus Homo. The body of a chimpanzee is not adapted for throwing: a too high center of gravity, a hand and palm without characteristic changes in the form of an opposing thumb also cannot provide an effective throw. It is the throwing skill that is the defining feature of a person, evolutionary biologist Paul Bingham and psychologist Joanna Sousa from Stony Brook University (USA) develop this concept in their book with the telling title "Death at a Distance and the Birth of the Human Universe." The ability to throw for us is like the ability to run for a cheetah, they argue, the Rubicon between representatives of the human species (human species, remembering extinct relatives) and everyone else. As soon as the javelin equalized the weak and the strong, the great humans, whose initiative was no longer held in check by despotic alpha males, began to develop as scalded.
Without an alpha male, our ancestors had to somehow fill the void: centralized control over food and access to members of the opposite sex was abolished, but making them uncontrolled would mean killing the economic and mental balance of the collective. So, according to the adherents of the theory "Throwing weapons made man out of a monkey", our ancestors had to establish taboos, rules common to all, primitive laws. Humans had to learn to cooperate, not the alpha male-subordinate relationship, otherwise known as the "vertical of power."
Here, of course, one can object: was it only the throwing weapon that created the social organization of people? At the 2012 Forum of the Ernst Strungmann Institute, held in Frankfurt am Main (Germany), Karel von Scheik, head of the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Zurich (Switzerland), publicly expressed doubt that weapons were the cause of the restructuring of human society. Quite the opposite, he believes: the first people were forced to rely on the value of each person in their small team, usually no more than 20-40 people. Therefore, violence simply could not be used to maintain the social structure, which naturally made the despotic alpha male an endangered type of leader.
Opponents immediately pointed out that chimpanzees in the wild also rely quite heavily on the specialization of the skills of individuals. During the hunt, they share their prey with females who did not participate in the case, and they give them the fruits of gathering. Nevertheless, the alpha male is there, and there is also no hint of a throwable weapon.
In support of their hypothesis about the relationship between the social structure of people and their weapons and technologies in general, the supporters of the "gun / gun man" hypothesis also point to the Neolithic. About 10 thousand years ago, agriculture began to allow the accumulation of wealth in the same hands. It is useless to collect meat that will rot the next day; collecting grain is one of the first steps to create the so-called oriental despotism, where stock management is considered one of the roots of statehood.
The possibility of accumulating values gave meaning to the phenomenon of slavery: a slave is unlikely to be able to hunt to get food for the master, while he certainly can plow. It is this new round of technological development, anthropologists believe, that became the basis of the modern state.
Moreover, Herbert Jintis of the Santa Fe Institute (USA) argues that the well-known modern drift towards formal egalitarianism was also provided by technological progress in the field of weapons. Among them, he includes firearms, which made the masses of infantry more important than knightly cavalry and caused the growth of the importance of the third estate in society, as well as the gradual flow of power to it.
Moreover, democratization, Mr. Bingham believes, today goes hand in hand with permits to own and carry weapons, allowing citizens to undermine the state's monopoly on violence.
Well, the new hypothesis about the driving forces of humanization is no worse than the labor hypothesis (and men … the ants don't know!), And even more so the sexual hypothesis (according to which other species of monkeys should have overtaken us); at least it is free of their well-known shortcomings. Now for a bit of harsh but necessary criticism.
Firstly, it is not clear why the watershed should be drawn precisely with regard to throwing weapons. Any budoka practitioner will tell you that non-throwing polearms almost eliminate the decisive influence of the force factor on the outcome of the battle. In addition, the art of using weapons (and even just hands) is much more important than the nature of primitive weapons or physical strength; Why should human ancestors have been different? Let's remember the same cheetahs: when they are taught to run by their elders, they accelerate to 110 km / h; when they are not taught (enclosures, a cub that lost its parents early), they cannot run faster than 50 km / h. Learning to use a non-throwing weapon, already at the first stage, had to weed out brute physical strength as a factor of dominance, because the ability to handle a spear quickly and accurately is more important than strength.
It is also completely unclear the assumption that the prehuman species were characterized by the features of the chimpanzee society. Let's remind: Bonobos pygmy chimpanzees do not use aggression to sort things out, they do not have primitive wars, and the head of the flock is a female - and not an "alpha" (in the sense that she does not monopolize sexual relations with any of the males). Again, they have practically no collisions between males and females; males are very tolerant of baby and adolescent bonobos. It would seem, what prevents the male (and he is stronger than the female in bonobos, like in humans or chimpanzees) from monopolizing power? Nothing, except that they are not able to resist one by one against the united group of females.
Males, on the other hand, due to their desire for solo dominance, cannot effectively interact. Therefore, the cult of power is not there - long before the appearance of any throwing weapon. By the way, the branches of chimpanzees and hominids split only 5, 5 million years ago, and bonobos specialized more slowly than "standard" chimpanzees, retaining more archaic features common to humans and chimpanzees. So they are closer to humans than any other species (even blood can be transfused). Therefore, if we are to model the first human communities on the basis of modern monkeys, then why on the example of chimpanzees, and not bonobos, in which alpha males are absent as a class? Maybe then it will be easier to explain their fall, or maybe there is no need at all?
Finally, about egalitarianism. It is, of course, possible to draw a conclusion on the basis of the Hadza society about the presence or absence of inequality among human ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago, but one should not forget about the details. So, some features of individual burials of the Paleolithic make us doubt the egalitarianism of people of that time: already in that era, skeletons with a very different number of objects of varying complexity lie nearby.
Yes, and among the Australian aborigines, without contact with whites, inequality is reliably known: a skilled warrior often began, alone or with a group of accomplices, to terrorize his fellow tribesmen. Although most Aboriginal people simply did not seem to have such inclinations, which is why such a practice did not dominate society; technically, as we can see, the presence of throwing weapons did not prevent the Australians from having separate alpha males in their communities. And if only the Australians!
Based on materials from NewScientist.